________________ CM . . . . Volume IX Number 16. . . . April 11, 2003

cover The Most Beautiful Kite in the World.

Andrea Spalding. Illustrated by Leslie Watts.
Toronto, ON: Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2003.
32 pp., cloth, $19.95.
ISBN 1-55041-716-9.

Subject Headings:
Fathers and daughters-Fiction-Juvenile literature.
Kites-Fiction-Juvenile literature.

Preschool-grade 2 / Ages 4-7.

Review by Valerie Nielsen.

*** /4

Reviewed from prepublication copy.


It is the day before Jenny's birthday, and she knows exactly what she wants - the beautiful big kite in the general store. The problem is that it costs nine dollars and ninety-eight cents.

     Jenny frowned. She only had two dollars

     and twenty-three cents in her piggy bank, but

     tomorrow was her birthday. Maybe her father

     would buy her the kite as a present.

Jenny crosses all her fingers and toes that night and dreams of a beautiful kite that trails sunbeams. The next morning at breakfast, however, the gift she unwraps is not the beautiful kite from the store, but a plain one made by her father in his workshop. Struggling to hide her disappointment, the little girl goes out with her father to fly the homemade kite. Jenny is not surprised when it will not fly, even after the addition of three bows.

     Jenny stamped her foot. "I knew it wouldn't fly.

     This kite will never fly,"she cried in frustration.

But fatherly patience, as well as some help from neighbours and friends, wins out in the end. Jenny watches her kite soaring high above everyone's head. "It's the most beautiful kite in the world," she beams.

Andrea Spalding is a gifted story teller who has 18 children's books ranging from picture books to young adult novels to her credit. She is particularly adept at evoking a west coast setting in her stories. The Most Beautiful Kite in the World is the second collaboration of Andrea Spalding and illustrator Leslie Elizabeth Watts who will be remembered for her illustrations of Sheree Fitch's books There's A Mouse in the House (1998) and If I Were the Moon (1999). The artist does a wonderful job of depicting the facial expressions of people in the story in several close-ups. No descriptive text is necessary as Watts brings to life the setting and characters of Spalding's book in clear, bright colours. An added bonus for younger listeners is the appearance of an irresistible little white terrier in almost every painting.

internal art

     The Most Beautiful Kite in the World is a deceptively simple story which carries important themes well worth discussion. Most children have desperately wanted a certain toy, only to be disappointed at not receiving the desired item. Spalding's story shows that a gift is more than what it looks like or how much it costs. A true gift is one which is fashioned with love and comes with patience and ingenuity as part of the package. Jenny's change in the way she sees her kite is the sort of epiphany which will resound with adult readers and be understood by even the youngest listeners.


A retired teacher-librarian, Valerie Nielsen lives in Winnipeg, MB.


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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364